Wilson Labs ‘Project Shift’ 300g / 16×20 Review
Do you want to know all about Wilson’s latest frame, the interestingly named ‘Project Shift’? It is a brand-new concept that breaks the mold in many ways and speaks to Wilson’s desire to bring real innovation to serious players.
As we know from our comprehensive coverage of Wilson rackets, they have a rich history within the world of tennis. And when one of the game’s most storied manufacturers brings out something brand new we just had to experience it.
So, if you want the inside track on the Wilson Labs ‘Project Shift’ read on.
Quick Notes on the Wilson Project Shift
This really is an intriguing package, from the unique ‘arctic prism’ paintwork to the fact that this is not even the final release (more on that later), we can clearly see that Wilson has invested considerable effort into giving consumers something different.
With two models boasting a 99-sq inch head size and a construction that is engineered for ‘lateral bending’ the theme of uniqueness continues and we were excited to see what this means where it matters most, on the court!
We spent time with the 300-gram version paired with a 16×20 string bed to see if the Wilson Project Shift was gimmicky or a genuine innovation and the results were fascinating.
9out of 10
Make no mistake, this frame employs brand new technologies and as with anything untried, it took us time to calibrate and we would immediately say that this racket needs a fairly lengthy demo.
At 300 grams and with a powerful beam, the frame initially felt like a rocket launcher, especially if you are accustomed to a traditional, player’s racket with a smaller head and more traditional profile. But, after a little time, it became clear that with its open string pattern it is a frame that demands an aggressive pass and your best ‘spin-move’.
Once you start accentuating your topspin and slice motion, with real commitment, then the ball really starts to arc, often landing within the lines.
With our mechanics dialed in we could start to pour on the power and this is where things got interesting. The constant 23.5mm beam profile feels substantial and stable while the ‘lateral bending’ technology makes a genuine difference when you really go for it. Wilson has designed this frame not to twist and instead to move laterally. Genuinely, this made the frame feel solid, especially for a comparatively light 300-gram model.
Ultimately, over time it became clear that the Project Shift caters specifically to the modern game and a call for power and spin and this frame will appeal to those looking for additional help in these areas.
Yes, a certain demographic will prefer a more traditional offering. But for very many club players, this frame will be a much-needed fifth gear that amplifies the type of shots we see professionals such as Rafa hits – heavy, looping, fizzing balls that ask big questions of your opponent.
7out of 10
Straight off the shelf, we did not expect this frame to be particularly adept around the net. At 300 grams and with a 99-sq inch footprint coupled with a powerful beam it lacks the key ingredients required for deft volleying – namely feel and maneuverability. This said, however, it did not embarrass itself.
With the anti-twist technology, the Project Shift held its own when it came to dispatching volleys.
While we would have preferred a little more weight and subtlety, you can volley well enough with the racket, despite the fact that Wilson did not really design this as an all-court weapon.
9out of 10
With the feedback gained from the time spent hitting groundstrokes we knew what to do from the service line, turn on the gas!
Generating head speed from the 300-gram frame was a breeze and the open 16×20 string bed had no trouble with imparting spin onto the ball.
This was in fact a killer combination, resulting in some gnarly serves that lacked nothing in the way of velocity and kick.
In short, this frame’s capacity for creating spin meant that we could be more aggressive – confident that more power meant increased spin and a stronger likelihood of the ball dipping into the service box.
Furthermore, enhanced spin always helps when it comes to second-serves, and swapping power for accuracy can still result in a taxing shot. Good mechanics allows the spin-centric Project Shift to do its thing, producing a ball that fizzes sharply off the court.
7.5out of 10
One thing we really like about the 300-gram head is that it can be customized with lead tape, adding a little more substance for more stability and plow-through.
Yes, you can consider the heavier sibling at 315 grams, but you may not appreciate the denser 18×20 string bed that comes with the weightier option.
But nonetheless, for us, it is true that when returning we would have liked a little more weight.
In its stock form (much like with this frame around the net) the Project Shift does a solid if not spectacular job.
The larger head makes life easier when it comes to returning hard serves, and if you have the luxury of teeing off against more pedestrian balls, things are a lot more fun. But overall, a fraction more weight would add some nice heft when it comes to blocking against more accomplished servers.
9out of 10
It is clear that Wilson has genuinely created something new, rather than rehash an old formula with new marketing. In fact, this current model is still a work in progress with the Wilson ‘Labs’ moniker denoting that this is effectively a prototype of sorts, manufactured in limited volumes.
Upon each frame is a QR code that once scanned takes you to an online questionnaire that aims to collect player feedback on the racket. Wilson will process each response and this information will be used to inform final tweaks before a full-scale production model is released. An interesting move indeed.
And it is also apparent that Wilson has tried to offer a frame that occupies a unique niche within the wider racket market. At 99-sq inches the frame can speak to those who need a little bit of help with forgiveness and playability, while it will grab the attention of better players seeking a turbo-boost for their game.
Meanwhile, the ‘lateral flexibility’ technology legitimately works, enabling the frame to accentuate spin and feel without being too harsh, even though it has a comparatively high stiffness rating (RA) of 68.
But will the innovation actually work for you?
The short answer is yes and this frame goes beyond being different for the sake of it.
Playing with the Project Shift was a blast and in its ‘off-the-shelf’ guise will appeal to a wide variety of club players looking to play a more dynamic brand of tennis.
But we are specifically excited to experiment a little more by adding weight and playing around with various strings/tensions to see what this racket can really do – quite easily this frame could appeal to strong players with just a little customization.
Here and now, we like the direction Wilson is taking with this move and are intrigued to see what our readers think of the Project Shift family of rackets.
And if you are seriously considering something new, check out our hugely popular custom fitting service, and who knows, we may be recommending the Project Shift for your game!
Is This Racket Right For Your Game? Find Out With a Custom Fitting!
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